Apr 18, 2019

Unilever first-quarter sales growth sharpened by price rises

Anglo-Dutch consumer goods group Unilever delivered 3.1 per cent underlying sales growth in the first quarter, ahead of expectations, helped by strong demand in Asia and for household products. Roughly two-thirds of the improvement came from price increases as opposed to selling more products, a trend which has persisted at Unilever for some time, prompting concern among investors that the company needs to invest more in its brands to stoke growth. Chief Executive Alan Jope, who took over in January, is trying to improve sluggish sales growth amid deep changes to how consumers eat and shop. The maker of Dove soap and Lipton tea posted first-quarter sales of €12.4bn, while analysts had been expecting sales of €12.3bn and organic sales growth of 2.8 per cent, according to company-compiled consensus. Unilever shares have underperformed in 2019, up 6.5 per cent this year, compared with a 17 per cent rise for rival Nestlé and a 14 per cent rise for the MSCI Europe consumer staples index.

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